Sky News
April 29, 2009

The World Health Organisation will reportedly raise the swine flu alert level to five, the second highest level.

A phase five alert is a strong signal that a pandemic is imminent.

[efoods]It is called when there is human-to-human spread of the virus in at least two countries in one region.

So far, 150 people are thought to have died from the H1N1 strain.

All but one of the deaths has been in Mexico. A Mexican toddler visiting the United States was the first death in America.

The virus has spread to nine countries and may have infected more than 2,500 people.

Sources say the level will be raised from four to five soon.

It follows intensive consultations with experts and analysis of the spreading virus within and from Mexico, sources add.

The change in level would put governments on alert about the need to stockpile antiviral drugs such as Roche’s Tamiflu and GlaxoSmithKline’s Relenza.

And also to speed up efforts by the pharmaceutical industry to create a vaccine to fight the swine flu strain.

On Monday evening, WHO Director-General Margaret Chan convened a meeting of its emergency committee to assess the level which had previously been at three on the six-stage scale.

The panel recommended an increase to four, which formally indicated the infection could spread between humans to cause community-level outbreaks.

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